Around noon on Tuesday, an Ashdod kindergarten teacher in her 40s lost consciousness and collapsed in front of the children in her class. The children shrieked in fear as staff members called emergency services for help. One staff member rushed down the street to a local medical clinic to try and get help from the staff members there.
A few blocks over, United Hatzalah volunteer Yaakov Atiya was studying in Kollel when his emergency communications device began to vibrate, alerting him to the emergency taking place nearby. He quickly closed his book, ran outside, and drove as fast as he could to the kindergarten. Arriving in less than three minutes, Yaakov grabbed his medical kit, saw the commotion, and rushed inside where he found the woman lying unconscious on the ground without a pulse.
Yaakov initiated CPR and was joined moments later by Dor Friedman, another United Hatzalah volunteer who had rushed over on his ambucycle. The pair attached a defibrillator which gave an immediate shock to the patient, and then the duo continued to perform CPR. A nurse from the nearby medical clinic arrived and started an IV line.
“The chaos at the scene was palpable,” Yaakov related. “The children were hysterical and the staff tried everything to calm them down. It was very difficult to be in the midst of this, and I radioed for backup and asked that the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit (PCRU) be dispatched to assist the children and staff who were traumatized by what they witnessed.”
After a short while, additional EMS personnel arrived, including an ambulance team from United Hatzalah. The combined team of responders succeeded in bringing back the woman’s pulse and her blood pressure rose to a stable level. She was transported to the hospital in a mobile intensive care ambulance.
“After the medical emergency had ended, we had to deal with the emotional fallout,” said Yaakov. “We cleaned the room thoroughly so that there would be no trace of any medical supplies or other leftovers from the CPR, nothing to trigger the children or staff. Natalie Kadosh, one of the higher ranking PCRU unit members had taken charge of the scene and was working with both the children and the staff to help them process what happened.
“It was amazing to see how other volunteers also stepped in. Dor Friedman gave the children a demonstration of his ambucycle showing them how it works and told them how he was able to get there so quickly and safely. This brought smiles back to the worried faces of the children and it was a big help to pull them out of the trauma they witnessed. Another volunteer, Daniel Bokovza went out and purchased popsicles for all of the children in the daycare, that helped a lot as well. This really brought home for me the message that our work as first responders who are a part of the community doesn’t end, even when the medical emergency has passed, we are here for the community and all those affected by the emergency.”
Atiyah added: “I always tell my fellow volunteers and fresh recruits I meet that you need to remain aware. One never knows when or where an emergency will take place. When it does, we need to be there to help, not only until the person’s injuries are treated and they are transported to the hospital, but assist until the incident is completely over. To me, that’s what makes volunteering as a first responder with United Hatzalah unique, and I am proud to do it.”